Relapse after trying to go off Citalopram

Posted , 6 users are following.

Hello all, new here, and I was hoping I could find some support.

I have lived with pretty severe anxiety disorder for close to 10 years now, but luckily I was able to stabilize myself on Citalopram fairly early on after trying a couple different medications. With that being said, I was on Citalopram for a number of years, and I thought that perhaps I did not need the medication anymore since I had felt find for so long. Needless to say, I've never made a more regrettable decision. After tapering down from 40mg (which is where I was at for years) to 20mg and then to 10mg over the course of a couple months, I have ended up experiencing a full-blown relapse.

First of all, I should have done my research first about the risk of relapse. Secondly, I probably went down in dosage too quickly.. Thanks doc. Most of all, though, it seems that I still need to be on Citalopram after all. I've been back on 40mg for about a week now, and obviously still feeling awful. My sleep has totally gotten screwed up so I've been getting very little sleep each night, which is leading to higher anxiety. All of your typical thoughts are back.. "Will I be able to be myself again?", "Will the meds work again?" etc. I've landed back in an awful place that I hoped I would never be in again.

Logically, I know that I need to wait it out a few weeks for the Citalopram to normalize in my system again, which will also helpfully help my sleep go back to normal, but I'm nervous nonetheless. I've been taking a little bit of xanax to help with my anxiety at night, but I'm still waking up after only a few hours of light sleep. I've also read that insomnia is a side effect of citalopram, so I wonder if perhaps that is going on, too? My doc also prescribed me Ambien (which also didn't help) as well as Belsomar(?) which I haven't tried yet. I need a good night's sleep, but I'm also afraid to rely on meds for that, although it might be necessary for the time being. Overall, just very scared.

Either way, I'm all screwed up and good really use any encouragement! Have any of you had a similar situation before? I greatly appreciate it! Having support from others really helps. I know that none of us could do this on our own.


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13 Replies

  • Posted


    I was on 20 for 3 years. I tried weaning myself of. I thought I was winning for a little while. I had my energy back, which Is what I missed most of all, then I woke early one day worried about the day ahead. I asked the question here and found that there are a lot of people on 5 years plus. I went back on 20 and it settled down quite quickly. Lucky me. I'm not going to try coming of again. I'm 56. I guess I had to slow down sometime. Hope this helps. There are lots of great people here. I leaned heavily on the people in my early days. Thanks everyone.


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    • Posted

      Thank you very much for your reply. I know it definitely seems tempting to go off of meds if we feel we don't need them anymore, but it can be risky if we're not careful about how we do it. You were lucky, indeed. I definitely wish I would have done more research beforehand and had not relied solely on my family physician. Oh well, all I can do now is fight through. Thanks again!

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  • Posted

    Yea, the insomnia during the first weeks of taking Citalopram can be brutal. But it does go away. I'm sure part of your mental and physical struggling is due to lack of proper sleep.

    I was on the drug for many, many years and it mostly worked for me during that time. I have been off of it for 2 years and it was a very rough journey. The drug just seemed to be getting toxic to my system after 20 years.

    I sometimes wish I was still on it because a lot of my worrying, ruminating and overly sensitive emotions were numbed.

    I feel a lot more now----both good and bad. I can cry now when I need to.

    I'm hoping things will settle down for you soon. The sleepless nights will go away. I tried Ambien too at one time but it didn't work for me. Your supposed to 'let it work'. I would fight against it when I got sleepy. I take Xanax sometimes when I am really anxious or to help me fall asleep. I also take Benadryl to help me sleep. You have to just take the Xanadu sparingly.

    I know it seems you are in a nightmare now...I know because I've been there several times myself. Time will heal you. Maybe cut back to 20mg and work your way back up to 40mg....if you think you need that much. I e read recently that 40mg might be more than most people need.

    I really hope you feel better. You are not alone. So many are struggling. Let us know how you are doing.

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    • Posted

      Thank you so much for your reply. It really means a lot.

      The insomnia has definitely been rough, in that the lack of sleep really exacerbates anxiety symptoms. I'm looking forward to sleeping again, hopefully sooner than later.

      That's strange that you found the drug being toxic to your body after so long, but I suppose it makes sense. I won't dwell on that for the time being. That is awesome, though, that you have been able to get yourself off of them.

      I am definitely trying to use the xanax sparingly, really only at night before bed, even though it still only helps a little bit.

      I feel like since I've already been back at 40mg for a week now I should probably just stick it out rather than mess with my system anymore. I basically went from 40 to 20 within a month, and then 20 to 10 within another month, but then jumped back to 20 and then 40 pretty quickly. No wonder I got so screwed up.

      Anyway, thank you so much for your advice and support, I shall post updates of my progress.

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  • Posted

    Oh, such a similar situation for me except I haven't gone back on Citalopram since going off 9 months ago. I was on it 10 years or so. I think my last dose was clear up to 60 mg. Long story short, it worked very well on a low dosw for years. Then it stopped working and the doc upped my dose. Again, it worked...until it didn't and I had one awful crash. I do think it became toxic in my body.

    Against my better judgement (which I didn't have much of at the time) I stopped cold turkey. I wasi in complete hell for months (panic, every physical symptom under the sun, brain zaps). It was beyond torture. Went back to doc after several months and she put me on Prozac. It gave me intense heatburn which triggered more panic so i stopped that and gutted it out. While I'm better now, it seems the being off of meds combined with my GAD and withdraw nightmare, i am usually in a panic state. I think getting back on, from what I've read, should be slow and steady. 40 mgs just may be too much too soon. Can you see if going on 20 for 6 weeks would help you?

    Like another responder I take the occasional Xanax, but fear depending on it and take Benadryl to stave off feeling awful.  I pretty much feel like GAD has destroyed my life. I love my life and have so many awesome things to be happy about. It's so strange I can't be happy about any of it (most of the time).

    So, I think the bottom line is that we become dependent on the drug in some way or another, and then its effectiveness wears off, and upping it too much is too much for our bodies. Then we have to get off and suffer from withdraw. At that point, I think we may need it to return to normal, BUT we need to introduce it slowly. 

    I would speak to your GP and see if a lower dose will help you acclimate to it easier. 

    I will be following you to see how you do and covering you in positive thoughts.

    You're brave and I admire each and every person who has anxiety as it is one hell of a battle.


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    • Posted

      Thank you so much for your reply, and yeah, stopping these kinds of meds cold turkey is dangerous business. I'm glad you got through it, as I'm sure it was a complete nightmare. Some of us just need to be medicated, and that is okay. Sometimes it's a struggle finding a medication that works, but it is so worth it when it does, just being able to enjoy life again.

      I definitely went down and back up again in dosage way too quickly, but at this point I'll probably just stick it out with the 40mg since it's been a week already. I should level out again at some point, I hope.

      Just have to try and stay positive and work through this again. Thanks and good luck to you as well.

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  • Posted

    I think you came off too quick ..... its a shock to the body.  Your body is now missing the meds.

    I took these for 16 years and have withdrawn twice, 1st time slow and over about 5 months (still had withdrawal) and 2nd time much slower doing it by 5mg from 20mg (20 - 15 - 10 - 5 - 2.5 - 1.25 - 0) spending 1-2 months on each reduction, and in total took a year doing so.  I had no withdrawal 2nd time.

    Since I've been off I've been taking over the counter natural SSRI 5-HTP and am still well - this being now my 9th month.

    Anxious thoughts are a side effect of anxiety.  It you're off meds it might be worth trying 5-HTP (you can't take them if on prescription meds).

    K x

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    • Posted

      Thank you for your reply. I definitely agree that I decreased my dosage by too much way too quickly. Totally threw my system out of wack. I will not be relying on my doctor for such things anymore.

      I've been back on 40mg for about a week now so I will probably stay there for the time being until I can balance myself out again, which I'm hoping happens sooner than later.

      That's awesome that you were able to get yourself off of them. Best of luck to you and thank you again so much for your feedback.

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    • Posted

      Yep, I've read that many time on here about doctor advising their patients to stop meds abruptly or come off way too quick which causes them to feel much worse than when they were on the meds.

      Good idea to stay on the meds until balanced out, and when ready to come off do it really slowly by tiny amounts.

      Hope it goes well.

      K x

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    • Posted


      Not sure if you can take 5-HTP when pregnant.  I suppose, as always, its best to check out with a doctor and pharmacist beforehand.  

      Interesting though wink

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  • Posted

    Hi cam,

    Wow I'm in the same boat!!! Do not fear you are not alone and don't worry you will feel normal again, your brains neurones will be connecting again, takes a little time.. but try to relax, have a little self care.

    I find relaxing meditation music on you tube on my ears as I sleep help me zonk out to sleep.

    Do you drink caffeine? If you do cut it out, it fuels anxiety!

    Get yourself chamomile tea.. and Holland n barratt do a 'relax a tea' which is awesome before bed.

    Your brain will be working so hard... give yourself a break 🙂

    As I was saying I'm in a similar boat.. I was on citalopram for 7 years... i weened off over a 6 month period... I've been off citalopram for 9 weeks completely... now I have anxiety from hell! I'm even wondering where the heck we come from and where we go after we die... which is fuelling my anxiety, it's like my 'fearing' everything.... luckily I got some beta blockers from my doctor to calm the anxiety symptoms.

    I'm planning to see my doctor this week to go back on a low dose of citalopram (as I found I was ok on 10mg) - but I'm

    So annoyed with myself because I want to start trying to a baby this year! 😭 But doctors don't like it when pregnant with AD.

    But I can't take feeling like this anymore!!! - you will feel better, just give yourself a break, I think you deserve it.

    Whilst your patiently waiting for the citalopram to kick back in, watch lots of funny movies! 😂😄

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    • Posted

      Thank you very much for all of your advice and support! Really means a lot.

      I've definitely cut out caffeine and alcohol in the last week, sticking to herbal tea, trying to practice my relaxation methods. Every little bit helps for sure.

      I'm sorry to hear that you are in a similar situation! It's definitely rough after feeling decent for so long to feeling like you're right back at square one. But, it's a process and it always has been. I think we definitely learn to cope with it better over time. Sometimes it can feel impossible, though.

      Hang in there! We have to stay positive that we will get ourselves back on the horse, so to speak. Thanks again for your support!

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